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"The World's Best Headphone?" Ponders Steve Guttenberg, CNET.com
Utopia are the reference pair of headphones from Focal. They are the result of more than 35 years of innovation, development and manufacturing of speakers and loudspeakers in France. As a world first, Utopia features the only full range and fully open back loudspeaker, built within a pair of headphones, using pure Beryllium formed in the brand new "M" shape dome. The acoustic quality of this exclusive solution allowed Focal to avoid the use of any crossover or passive filtering process to achieve a frequency response from 5Hz to 50kHz!
The listening experience is outstanding in terms of realism, natural sound reproduction, dynamics and clarity. When listening to them, the headphones virtually disappear and the audio signal is revealed with a level of precision never achieved until Utopia.
Design is also a key point, be it in regards to the way of using the headphones, comfort, as well as the aesthetic. Another achievement with Utopia is the removal from the conventional rotation included on the yoke and its integration into the headband to ensure a total purity of the design.
The true lambskin leather used on the cushions, reinforces the character of classically elegant lines, as well as the expression of comfort and overall performances.
"The world's best headphone?" asks Steve Gutenberg in a CNET.com review for June 18, 2016. "Sure, it's expensive, but the Focal Utopia redefines what it means to be an audiophile headphone in 2016."
"The Elear and Utopia are simply extraordinary," raves Tyll Hertsens, InnerFidelity.com, July 18, 2016. "The sense of dynamism, tonal balance, and smooth clarity of both are, to put it mildly, disorientingly disruptive to my sense of where headphones are at today and in what way and by how much these are better."
The Utopia and Elear Story
Utopia and Elear headphones are the result of a rather risky challenge: to offer an audio experience worthy of the brand's high-fidelity loudspeakers through two new products. In order to achieve this, Focal approached the design of the various components in these headphones very differently to other players in the market.
The first obvious aspect is the extent of the open design of these two products. When Utopia or Elear are being worn, the sensation is remarkable: there is absolutely no change in perception in terms of room size. This desire to not have an impact on the impedance of the room the user is in, clearly contributes to the realistic sound of these two headphones.
Vastly Improved Comfort
The next step for Focal's mechanical engineers and designers was to improve the comfort of the headphones. There are still many high-end headphones which no doubt offer excellent performance, but comfort is a difficult issue over long periods. So, Focal focused on designing a headband with a constant bend, regardless of the size of the user's head size. This spreads the weight of the headphones evenly over the head to avoid the feeling of pressure on the head or ears, which is all too often the case with other products.
The yoke developed for these two projects is also very impressive, both in terms of purity of the design and in terms of comfort. Thus, the yoke doesn't have traditional vertically rotating mechanics, as this has been integrated into the headband.
In addition to this, the asymmetry of the attachment points connecting the yoke to the ear-piece improves the distribution of clamping pressure and ensures excellent sealing and great comfort.
The ear-piece also deserves praise for its remarkable aesthetics and its impressive open design. This avoids any mechanical compression of the transducers while preserving exceptionally realistic sound. Equipped with high-density memory foam, the headphones provide perfect sealing and adapt seamlessly to heads of all shapes and sizes.
Pushing the Limits of Speaker Driver Performance
A characteristic which really sets Focal apart is its ability to innovate and push back the limits in the field of speaker drivers, while managing its own industrial process at the production site based in Saint-Etienne, France. The challenge to reproduce experiences worthy of the brand's best loudspeakers through two new headphones has resulted in a major innovation in the world of headphones (patent pending): the very first completely open back full-range loudspeaker. This world premiere is the result of four years of collaboration between the R&D and production methods teams.
By refusing to accept the compromise of having ports, which would of course allow for numerous tuning possibilities, particularly in the low end, Focal's priority was to get rid of the distortion typically experienced with this type of open design. The only limit with this concept is the necessity to conceive the headphones from the start around a loudspeaker with a perfect frequency response.
The only possibility for sound tuning would come down to the choice of materials and their properties, for example the magnet, the voice coil, the surround or, of course, the dome. There was just one watchword: to have the lightest moving assembly possible in order to be able to reproduce the highest frequencies.
"The world's best headphone? Sure, it's expensive, but the Focal Utopia redefines what it means to be an audiophile headphone in 2016."
- Steve Gutenberg, CNET.com, June 18, 2016
"The Elear and Utopia are simply extraordinary. The sense of dynamism, tonal balance, and smooth clarity of both are, to put it mildly, disorientingly disruptive to my sense of where headphones are at today and in what way and by how much these are better."
- Tyll Hertsens, InnerFidelity.com, July 18, 2016